Deadly Spin

Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans

Greg Crowhurst 8th Nov 2010
(permission to repost) 

I burned the dinner last night, so enthralled  was I by Time magazine's ( Nov 15 p. 20) review of Wendell Potter's Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans which is finally  out this week : Nov 9th.

Flinging open all the windows, trying to get rid of the smoke, I was praying that  a lot more smoke and fire will be generated by this  blazing expose of the medical insurance industry.

  Potter, according to Time  : 

"exposes how corporations manipulate public opinion in the service of shareholders ,forming  front groups, touting misleading studies and enlisting sympathetic media types to further their causes."

..It was like reading our life story. For anyone with ME, these words put in a nutshell all that is so wrong . Everyone knows that it  precisely because of the power of the Medical Insurance lobby  that  we have the CDC and Oxford definitions, that we have the nonsense term : "CFS",  that we have   CBT and GET,  rather than a physical cure.We  all know this.

But how hard to talk to anyone about what we know ,  without hearing oneself sound like  a crackpot  conspiracy theorist. Well maybe from this week, it will be easier to have that confabulation.

As Mercurio states :

"What’s truly novel about Deadly Spin is that it provides an inside look at how health insurance industry spinmeisters mobilize to justify the actions of health plans that deny care, to discredit supporters of healthcare reform, and to position the industry as “part of the solution” to our healthcare problems.  The formula: extensive use of industry-funded front groups, fearmongering campaigns, disinformation and reliable industry allies (third-party advocates and pundits) to disseminate pro-health plan messages that can’t be traced to insurers.

One example  Potter gives concerns  the use of PR firm APCO Worldwide  who were  recruited by insurance giant Cigna , “to place stories with reporters, editors, and producers it had good relationships with and to get ‘third parties’ to convey Cigna’s messages.”after a 17-year-old health plan member died of cancer , because she was  denied coverage of a liver transplant.

He also describes how the industry   hired PR firm Porter Novelli to set up  the Health Benefits Coalition, which effectively killed the Patients Bill of Rights in the late 90's.

Who are these people, I have often wondered, who cause so much suffering ??? Potter's description is harrowing :

"I didn’t feel then that we were doing anything unethical or underhanded.  We were all well read and well educated….We all wore nice clothes and ate at the best restaurants and had kids in good schools and houses in the right zip codes.  We knew people in Congress and the White House.  We talked every day to reporters at the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.  We were powerful and influential….The American dream didn’t get any better than this."

In a House of Lords debate last year (March 18th 2009) the Countess of Mar quoted this from Health Insurance News ( :

    Medical Insurance May Not Cover Chronic Fatigue”,
"it gives a condensed description of ME. It then states:
“This sounds like a physical problem, doesn’t it? However, the NICE guidelines suggest that it is a psychiatric condition rather than a physical one.”.
"It goes on to say:
    “Because of the NICE guidelines private health insurance companies are within their right to refuse cover if an applicant’s policy does not include psychiatric cover”.
"I cannot find any confirmation for the extraordinary suggestion that ME is a psychiatric condition in the NICE guidelines. Will the Minister ensure that this misinformation is rapidly withdrawn?"
The Countess of Mar then  added: 
"I have been dealing with ME sufferers for 17 years and I have never encountered a group of patients who are so maligned. The last straw for them is the requirement that they undertake a course of CBT and/or GET in order to qualify for benefits and private insurance payments.

Replying to the debate for the Government, Baroness Thornton said:
"The noble Countess, Lady Mar, made a very interesting and well informed speech about CFS/ME, whose sufferers she has championed for many years. I will be pleased to investigate the issues that she has raised about CFS/ME treatment, recommended by NICE. It is important to restate the value which the Government place on the independence of NICE’s evaluation process, but I undertake to follow up the disturbing point she made and see whether I can provide her with clarification."

 Well, we  can only  hope that Baroness Thornton, now Opposition Spokesperson for Health and for Equalities Office ,  reads  Deadly Spin ! For, as Anne Landman explains, it  reveals all :

"The book details disinformation campaigns that health insurers use to cover up their misdeeds and manipulate public policy, reveals insurers' public relations tricks, like commissioning bogus scientific studies, working through fake "grassroots" organizations, and disseminating rhetoric designed to scare the public. (Think phrases like "socialism" and "death panels," that Wendell reveals were created by health insurance companies.) Wendell tells about the methods insurers use to "dump the sick," discusses the skyrocketing premiums and high deductibles that are putting health care out of reach for working people, and discloses the outrageous salaries that insurance companies executives make while denying care to patients. "


  1. Funny you blogged about this today. This has been weighing heavily on my mind....White's connections with Unum Provident, the whole orchestration of the psychologization of this illness, the bleed-across from the US to the UK and back again...thank you Greg. This is the key to why we are where we are with this illness.

  2. Thanks for that Khaly.

    What I find so encouraging, even so, is the force gathering through innovative,cutting-edge blogs like yours - a constant source of reference and inspiration to me, the way the history train is moving our way, XMRV has played an outstanding role, subtle shifts in the politic - books like Deadly Spin , movies like Sicko, are having a significant and increasing impact , the growing influence of informal media. So much is on our side.

    On the other hand the towering problem is that people with ME are SO sick; Linda is diminished - to- the -bone ill.

    Any other population would have taken to the streets in their thousands, decades ago. What do you do when you can barely speak, can barely take-in what's on the news,or what someone is trying to say to you and all the weight of the multi-billion dollar Insurance Industry is crushing you to the ground, denying your illness, forcing you into poverty , obscurity and , for many, death ?

    We know the issues, but we have to get heard now beyond the ME blogger-sphere .

    In that I have great hope in the amazing work you and others are doing right now Khaly

    We will be heard, we are so close now to a breakthrough, on so many levels, I can almost taste it !

  3. Thank you Greg and Khaly and all you bloggers who have made this fight and plight so public. We need all of you who keep us updated on the public face of ME/CFS!

    Of course I have to tell you, the ME/CFS Worldwide Patient Alliance hopes their Ad Campaign will enlist more of the (NOW) healthy in our fight for our basic right to appropriate diagnoses, tests, and treatment.

    If you haven't joined this Cause, please join the 1550 others of us who will VOTE on the Ad that will be going into the Washington Post very, very soon! Become a Member, then you, too, no matter where you live, can be a part of history!

    There will not be just one ad; this is an ongoing Ad campaign that will not end as long as there are supporters who will give of their resources, whether it be money, help with the public relations, the fundraising, etc. This is by the patients, for the patients, and is a fully democratic process, with the Members deciding everything that is done.

    Do take a look, if you're not a Member already, won't you? BE A PART OF HISTORY!


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